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2 Simple Ways to Improve Timing on the LSAT

Updated: Jan 31

After countless hours of prep and drilling, you are finally ready to take a practice test. You set your timer, and suddenly a wave of adrenaline flows through you. Despite it just being a practice exam, you feel incredibly nervous as if it was the real thing. A million worst-case scenarios flood your mind.

 

The section starts, and you immediately freeze. You feel like you are having difficulty retaining the information in front of you. Despite that, you try to push through because you know the clock is ticking.

 

During each question, you panic. "Am I taking too long on this question?" you ask yourself. You look at the clock. You look at the test for a few seconds. You look back at the clock. A question takes longer than 2 minutes. You panic again, because you know you only have a minute and 25 seconds per question!

 

Before you know it, you have five minutes remaining and you have only completed half the section. You panic again, and you rush through the rest of the questions, randomly guessing as you go through. As a result, you always feel like there is a huge difference between your potential and how you end up scoring on the test.

 

Did it sound like I am in your head as you take practice sections or practice tests? That's because that was exactly what I did! I know how stressful that can be. And that is what many of my students had to endure as well. After helping these students improve with timing, I wanted to share some tips that really helped them.

 

I promise you can overcome this.

 

Just so you know I'm not making this up, here are some real results from just some of my previous students.

 

-Emily started off struggling with timing. We used these techniques to boost her timing and she ended up with a 178 (She started in the 150s).

 

-Arielle struggled with timing in Logic Games and started out getting more than 10 questions wrong per section as a result. After implementing these techniques, she ended up scoring consistently perfect in each of her practice tests and ended up with a 170 (She started in the low 150s).

 

There are countless others who have had similar results. Believe me--timing is a problem for almost everyone in the beginning.

 

 But first, I want to make sure we are truly experiencing a timing issue. There are no shortcuts when it comes to the LSAT. There is no magic wand you can wave and all of the sudden you go through the sections much more quickly. That's why so few score in the high 160s-170s. It takes work...a lot of work.

 

So first, ask yourself the following questions:

-Am I able to answer questions with high accuracy untimed?

-If so, am I confident with my answers and do I have a specific strategy?

 

If the answer to either of these questions is 'no', it's not time to even worry about timing yet. Focus on understanding the fundamentals and continue doing untimed practice.

 

But for those of you who are truly having timing issues, here are some tips:

 

Tip #1: Be strategic about checking the clock

Did you know that when you switch your attention from one task to another, it takes time to redirect your focus? That's right. Those seemingly harmless moments where you look back at the clock are not only taking attention away from the test, but they are also wasting additional precious time.

 

I totally get the desire to see how much time has left. The problem is that so many people do it incessantly, to the point where it takes a significant chunk of time away from the test. Not to mention that after looking at the clock, you have to find where you left off in the passage or question, wasting even more time.

 

Also, even if you check the clock, what good will it do? That time is already lost. What is the solution, to go faster? If you have been reading my blog posts, you know that is absolutely not the right answer. Rushing only leads you to fall right into the test maker's traps, as we'll discuss more in detail later in this email.

 

Basically, in the process of trying to save time, you are actually distracting yourself from what is important--the actual questions!

 

So, what should we do instead? This may sound crazy, but I recommend not looking at the clock at all.

 

Here's why. Overtime as you take more and more practice sections, you will develop an internal timer. You'll just get a feel for when you are close to 35 minutes, kind of like how our bodies just naturally seem to know when it's time to wake up. This allows you to focus on the questions uninterrupted.

 

If you absolutely need to check the clock, check it strategically. Here's when to check the clock for each section type:

 

Logic Games--After each game

Logical Reasoning--After every 10 questions

Reading Comprehension--After each passage

 

Be sure to only check the clock at these times. By having a designated 'checkpoint' where you check the clock, you remove the temptation to check how much time is left incessantly. This will feel weird in the beginning, and your brain will try to force you to look at the clock randomly. But you have free will and mental strength! Fight the urge and before you know it, you will feel much more comfortable going into each section.

 

 

Tip #2: Be okay with not answering all questions.

People often do a ton of unnecessary mental math in their heads. They calculate they have about 1 minute 25 seconds per question. As soon as it takes a second longer, they begin to calculate how much time each remaining question should take. (If you can do all that in your head that fast, consider becoming a mathematician!)

 

The problem with this approach is it does not take into account the relative difficulty of each question. The reality is that easier questions can take less than a minute and harder questions can take significantly longer. If you also consider the fact that the LSAT does not consistently order questions by difficulty, you will realize that thinking about questions this way is unhelpful.

 

When people think about how much time they have per question, they inevitably make one of the biggest timing mistakes. They assume they need to attempt all questions.

 

This is false. You do NOT need to answer all the questions.

 

Let's do some simple math to prove this point...

 

To get a 170, you need to get roughly 67 questions correct. That means you can get about 8 questions wrong.

 

To get a 165, you need to get roughly 61 questions correct. That means you can get about 14 questions wrong.

 

To get a 160 you need to get roughly 54 questions correct. That means you can get about 21 questions wrong.

 

That really puts it into perspective, right? That means even if you left 21 questions completely blank, you could still get a 160.

 

But if you focus on answering all questions, you WILL end up rushing. As a result, you end up making a careless mistake on a question that you would have gotten right if you just took a few extra seconds on it, just to save time on harder questions that you would have gotten wrong even if you had all the time in the world, which you also end up skimming on, resulting in even more points lost.

 

So, go into sections with the expectation that you might not get through all the questions. If you are missing more than 5 questions per section, you should prioritize improving accuracy over speed. Tell yourself, "I may only get through 20 questions, but I will get them all 100% correct".


Let's take Logical Reasoning, for example. Suppose you are missing 8 questions in this section under timed conditions. That means you are getting 17 questions correct. If you only do 20 questions but get them all correct, that is a win!


Not only do you get immediate benefits from this approach, but it helps you improve your score more quickly and efficiently overtime. If you are constantly rushing, it becomes very difficult to diagnose your weaknesses because everything you got wrong seems to be the result of you rushing and making careless errors. You will also end up reviewing questions that you actually 'understand' unnecessarily. Whereas if you took your time and still got it wrong, you can home in immediately on the questions that truly required a deeper understanding of particular concepts. As I have said time and time again, improvement comes from review, not from the practice tests themselves!

 

You got this! Stay motivated!



Did you find this post helpful? If you are looking for personalized tutoring that is structured and methodical, click here.

Check out more free resources below!

  1. Free online flashcards for Conditional Reasoning:

  2. Trend analysis on recent Logic Games Sections:

  3. Free LSAT Book on how to study:



Sincerely,

 

Cho from Impetus LSAT

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